Popular Culture Review 29.1 (Spring 2018) - Page 159

Review of Understanding Larry McMurtry, by Steven Frye By Michael Velez One might think that the work of Texan author Larry McMurtry has been watched more than it has been read. While The Last Picture Show and Lonesome Dove were popular and critical successes in the theater and on the television screen, the author’s novels remain much admired by a sizable, enduring readership. Steven Frye has written an insightful overview of McMurtry’s wide-ranging body of work—and aesthetic— in Understanding Larry McMurtry. Frye here assays the full output of an estimable writing career that includes novels, screenplays, essays, and memoirs. In the work’s introductory chapter, Frye provides an analysis of the author’s aesthetic, deftly positioning McMurtry both within and outside the genre Western. This reflects McMurtry’s long-stated misgivings that the genre Western tends to enshrine simplistic national myths. Frye briefly traces the evolution of the Western, arguing that McMurtry’s contributions remain singular. To Fyre, the author’s literary craftsmanship draws on well-honed realism, an “antipathy” to genre conventions combined with a willingness to deconstruct such along with a discerning eye for character and setting. Frye further argues that McMurtry uses elements of both the historical romance and the novel of manners to fashion a literary West that can be as drily historical as it is archetypically rich. 159